Deciphering the enemy's ID

August 13, 2013

Immunologists at LMU have come up with a new technique that can be used both to fight tumors and to treat autoimmune diseases. A new grant from the Federal Ministry for Education and Research will enable the method to be developed further.

The primary task of the immune system is to defend its host against and tumors. So-called T cells play a crucial role in this process, because they carry that recognize and bind to foreign ("non-self") antigens. However, the precise nature of most of these antigens is unknown. Cytotoxic T cells are particularly important because they may recognize pathogen-derived (peptides) on infected cells, and eliminate the invaders by killing the cells that harbor them. Moreover, they may extinct tumors by recognizing tumor-specific antigens. However, they can sometimes be misled into attacking and destroying healthy tissues. The result is an autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis or psoriasis.

A team led by Privatdozent Dr. Klaus Dornmair of the Institute for Clinical Neuroimmunology in collaboration with Prof. Jörg Prinz at the Dermatological Clinic recently reported a which, for the first time, permits rapid identification of the antigens recognized by individual cytotoxic T cells.

The researchers will now be able to refine their method with the aid of a generous grant from the VIP Program (VIP stands for "Validation of the Innovation Potential of Scientific Research") administered by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Over the next three years, the Ministry will provide several million euros to fund the development of the technology to a stage at which it is sufficiently mature for commercial exploitation. In this endeavor, the team will also have the support of VDI/VDE-IT, a technology and innovation consultancy, which will be responsible for project management. In light of its great promise, a for the technology has already been filed.

Improved diagnostics, new therapies

"Our technique makes it possible to analyze millions of antigens within the space of few hours. This may not only simplify and improve diagnostic procedures, it may also allow the design of targeted, long-term therapies," says Privatdozent Dr. Klaus Dornmair, who is leading the project. "Indeed, it may provide the basis for a whole series of innovations, since cytotoxic T cells play a major role in many disorders." The technology has a wide range of potential applications, and can be used in the context of viral diseases and malignancies, as well as in the diagnosis and treatment of . The LMU researchers therefore expect that demand for the technology will be brisk, and will offer it as a contract research service.

The technique itself uses two types of genetically engineered cells to identify both the antigen-specific receptor of interest and the antigen it recognizes. T cells are first isolated from patients, and the genetic directions for the synthesis of their antigen receptors are introduced into a T-cell line that grows well in culture. This line also carries a gene that codes for an indicator protein, attached to the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). These cells are then mixed with cells that have been programmed to express millions of different peptides on their surfaces. When a T-cell receptor recognizes a cognate peptide displayed by one of these , the indicator gene is activated, and the T cell can be identified by its green fluorescence, and recovered together with the adjacent cell that activated it. This allows the reactive receptor to be characterized, while the antigen it naturally recognizes can be identified on the basis of the amino-acid sequences of the peptides to which it binds.

Explore further: The green light gives the game away: New method for direct identification of antigens

Related Stories

The green light gives the game away: New method for direct identification of antigens

April 10, 2012
The immune system is a vital part of our defenses against pathogens, but it can also attack host tissues, resulting in autoimmune disease. The antigens that induce destructive immune reactions can now be identified directly ...

Adoptive cell transfer: New technique could make cell-based immune therapies for cancer safer, more effective

December 16, 2012
A team led by Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Cell Engineering at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, has shown for the first time the effectiveness of a new technique that could allow the development ...

Engineered T cells kill tumors but spare normal tissue in an animal model

April 7, 2013
The need to distinguish between normal cells and tumor cells is a feature that has been long sought for most types of cancer drugs. Tumor antigens, unique proteins on the surface of a tumor, are potential targets for a normal ...

Modified immune cells seek and destroy melanoma

June 24, 2013
In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers led by Scott Pruitt at Duke University and Merck Research Laboratories report on a human clinical trial in which modified dendritic cells, a component of ...

Basophils required for the induction of Th2 immunity to haptens and peptide antigens

May 7, 2013
Researchers from Kyoto University have reported that basophils play a central role in Th2 induction.

New universal platform for cancer immunotherapy developed

March 5, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania report this month in Cancer Research a universal approach to personalized cancer therapy based on T cells. It is the first ...

Recommended for you

Genetic immune deficiency could hold key to severe childhood infections

July 18, 2017
A gene mutation making young children extremely vulnerable to common viruses may represent a new type of immunodeficiency, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?

July 18, 2017
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma in adults? This can be tricky because asthma can stem from several causes and treatment often depends on what is triggering the asthma.

Large multi-ethnic study identifies many new genetic markers for lupus

July 17, 2017
Scientists from an international consortium have identified a large number of new genetic markers that predispose individuals to lupus.

Study finds molecular explanation for struggles of obese asthmatics

July 17, 2017
A large, bouquet-shaped molecule called surfactant protein A, or SP-A, may explain why obese asthma patients have harder-to-treat symptoms than their lean and overweight counterparts, according to a new study led by scientists ...

Team identifies potential cause for lupus

July 14, 2017
Leading rheumatologist and Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Professor Betty Diamond, MD, may have identified a protein as a cause for the adverse reaction of the immune system in patients suffering from lupus. A better ...

Immunosuppression underlies resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy

July 14, 2017
A Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team has identified a novel mechanism behind resistance to angiogenesis inhibitors - drugs that fight cancer by suppressing the formation of new blood vessels. In their report ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.